Unreal Nature

August 31, 2009

Explanation of Benefits

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 8:51 am

Explanation of Benefits
Skip this section. No benefits are currently available.

If the whole health care mess has you depressed, here is some black humor from The New Yorker. It’s a spoof health care newsletter, Fibrillations by Bruce McCall (Sept 7, 2009):

Policy Updates
— The new “Artificial Horizons” Plan for prosthetics will no longer provide separate prosthetic toes. See Pamphlet 567-A-2099 for a limited-time-only “Five-Pak” prosthetic-toe kit. (One foot per subscriber.)

Q. & A. of the Month
Q: My current statement lists two hundred and thirty-one charges for “brain surgery,” even though I have had no brain surgery. How can I rectify this?
A: Invalid question. Brain surgery is not covered under your plan.

Bottom-Line Bulletins
We are constantly fine-tuning our operations in our relentless effort to make your sickness pay. Some recent examples:
— Prescription-drug prices have been lowered.*
— We’ve reduced costly paperwork by passing it on to you.
*For those subscribers requiring no medication.

Helpful Tips
— Planning your next major illness for off-peak times (see “Early Bird Bargains”) can save you money. Example: visiting the E.R. with a cerebral hemorrhage between 3 A.M. and 6 A.M. on holiday-weekend Mondays can save up to two hundred hours of waiting time.

There is more

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

Lost in the Music

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:02 am

Les Paul died on August 13th.  A long comment to his obituary in The Economist (by Sam Ash) includes this:

… He was always a gentle soul, very quiet, but he always had a joke or funny line waiting to pop out of his mouth. The last time I spent any real time with him was at a private photo shoot we did together last year at Iridium, the club he played every Monday night until the day he died. I had a rare opportunity to share a stage with him and discuss his favorite guitar, his Les Paul Custom Ebony with “Les Paul Recording” electronics, another one of his many inventions. What almost made me fall over in my chair was that the guitar was a “Factory Second” as I saw stamped on the back of the headstock. It was like seeing Henry Ford driving an Edsel. When I asked about it, he just shrugged it off: “Hey, it’s a good guitar!” After the shoot was over and we had said our goodbyes, he just went quietly back to the stage and started to play guitar all by himself, lost in the music and memories I guess. He was playing “How High the Moon” as I left.

The Economist piece is good. Here it is in its entirety:

Until about two months ago a short, slightly bent 93-year-old man would take to the stage every Monday in a New York nightclub. He would place a guitar bearing his name under a right arm permanently set at a right angle, touch the strings with the few working fingers of his arthritic hands and launch into some of the greatest guitar riffs of all time. Few musicians have careers lasting more than eight decades. Even fewer can boast two huge accomplishments. Les Paul, who died last week, invented both the electric guitar and multi-track recording, inventions that changed the sound and production of rock music.

Lester Polsfuss was born in a small town in Wisconsin in 1915. He taught himself the harmonica, banjo and guitar, sometimes building the instruments out of materials he found. He made his first open-bodied electric guitar by attaching a pickup from an old Victrola. Soon he changed his name to Les Paul and began playing in local hillbilly music bands.

Before long Mr Paul was performing with the most elegant bands on radio and in posh nightclubs. In the 1940s he played and recorded with all the big names of the era including Nat King Cole, Rudy Valée and Kate Smith. Dissatisfied with the sound of amplified guitars, he used a piece of railway sleeper to make a solid base for the strings and pickups, producing in this way a unique tone. The “log”, as he called it, was the first solid-body electric guitar.

After the war he started experimenting with recording techniques, altering the pitch and resonance of notes. After some 500 tries, he produced a recording that combined two versions he had played of “Lover”, a song that topped the charts in 1948. Shortly afterwards he was injured in a car crash and doctors could do nothing with his crushed right arm except lock it in one position. Without hesitation he told them to set it in a position to play the guitar.

A year earlier he had teamed up with Mary Ford, a country singer whom he later married. Sculpting her voice like clay, Mr Paul built layers of sound into one combination. Soon he was creating 24-track recordings, including such hits as “How High the Moon” and “The World is Waiting for the Sunrise”.

Dark days followed. For a time there were no musical geniuses to put his inventions to their best use. Mr Paul and Ms Ford were trapped in a 1950s television show in which they had to appear in suits and pearls on the patio of a suburban ranch house breaking into song by the barbecue grill. By the mid-1960s, his marriage over, Mr Paul felt music had passed him by. He turned to refining his recording technology. Also, at the request of the Gibson guitar company, he produced his signature Les Paul model, still the Cadillac of guitars.

But then a new generation of musicians discovered him and his pioneering work for rock music. Pilgrimages to honour the father of the electric guitar by stars such as Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney made him famous again. He started playing in small clubs once more. A 2005 album, made with the help of admirers, including Sting, won two Grammies. Not at all a bad tribute for his 90th birthday.

lesPaul

 

The bit, “trapped in a 1950s television show in which they had to appear in suits and pearls on the patio of a suburban ranch house breaking into song by the barbecue grill”, made me laugh. How many millions are likewise trapped in their real life.

If you want more details about Paul, here is his Wikipedia page.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

August 30, 2009

Heresy

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:25 am

In the second half of the twentieth century, we expect — and it is the first half which has whetted, which has exasperated our expectation — we expect, then, if we do not quite require, a lyric poem to have the dramatic impact upon us of suddenness, the convulsive energy of a pang, and we look in the poem’s disposition as we listen to its discords for that excitement which lurks round the edges of things, trembling on the verge, thrilling at the margin. Modernism, as we have come to conceive it in the century of its life, is not opposed to lyric, but insists that the implicit qualities of such a poetry be made explicit, demands that the drama inhabiting the simplest utterance, the slightest acknowledgement of experience organized above “the tension of the lyre,” dwell there in full view, outrageous, insistent, inescapable. Even at its most joyous, even when it celebrates loss and severance in an ecstasy, a transport, the modern lyric is committed to a tragic role, a role in which communication with the divine — and in Western culture such communication generally takes the disputed form of a protest, a conflict — is determinant. Love and death, then, in the modern American lyric are to be excruciating or they are, perhaps, not love and death at all. Only as it approaches the point of severance from experience is expression considered severe enough, extreme enough, to be authentic. This is our modernist heritage, the orthodoxy of a terrible faith in excluded middles; if there is heresy among us, it has not prevailed — or of course it would no longer be heresy then; heresies are doomed to minority status in poetry, the equivalent of persecution in religion.

But suppose we are confronted with a body, indeed with an anatomy of lyric verse which heretically rejects the tragic immediacy; which prefers to be interesting (the conscious) rather than to be excruciating (the unconscious); which prefers centers to edges, meetings to sunderings; which states — and statement will be a chief tenet of this heretical art:

Freedom is the mean of those
Extremes that fence all effort in;

which chooses — as Mark Van Doren says Shakespeare chose in The Tempest, that phantasmagoria of the temporal, as the very title indicates in its root — not so much to tell a story as to fix a vision.

— from the essay, To Be, While Still Becoming: A Note on the Lyric Verse of Mark Van Doren (1973) in the book, Paper Trails: selected prose, 1965-2003 by Richard Howard (2004)

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

Call Me Cynical . . .

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:22 am

Both of the quotes below made me laugh out loud.

First, you have, from an article, How Much of Your Memory is True by Kathleen McGowan in the July/August issue of Discover magazine, this bit at the end (the link goes to the last page of the article):

… Nader, Brunet, and Pitman are now expanding their PTSD study with a new, $6.7 million grant from the U.S. Army, looking for drugs that go beyond propranolol. They are increasingly convinced that reconsolidation will prove to be a powerful and practical way to ease traumatic memories. Sacktor also believes that some version of the techniques they apply in the lab will eventually be used to help people. Most recently, LeDoux’s lab has figured out a way to trigger reconsolidation without drugs to weaken memory, simply by carefully timing the sessions of remembering. “The protocol is ridiculously simple,” LeDoux says.

None of these researchers are looking to create brain-zapped, amoral zombies — or even amnesiacs. They are just trying to take control of the messy, fragile biological process of remembering and rewriting and give it a nudge in the right direction. Brunet’s patients remember everything that happened, but they feel a little less tortured by their own pathological powers of recollection. “We’re turning traumatic memories into regular bad memories,” Brunet says. “That’s all we want to do.”

“That’s all we want to do.” Mmm hmmm.

The second one is from an article, Unleashing the laws of war in The Economist (Aug 13, 2009). It’s about Geneva conventions and the ICC (International Criminal Court). Near the end, there is this sentence:

In any case, the ICC has yet to pin down the fourth crime mentioned in its statute alongside war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide: the crime of “aggression”.

They’re going to make aggression illegal … ? ! What planet are these people from?

And how might we (whoever …) punish people who have engaged in “aggression”? Well, of course, we’d give them a whuppin’.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

August 29, 2009

The Residue of Successive Evaporations

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:45 am

This is from Universe of Stone: Chartres Cathedral and the Invention of the Gothic by Philip Ball (2008):

“The greatest works of architecture”, said Hugo,

are not so much individual as social creations; they are better seen as the giving birth of peoples in labour than as the gushing stream of genius. Such works should be regarded as the deposit left by a nation, as the accumulations of the centuries, as the residue of successive evaporations of human society, briefly, as a kind of geological formation.

[ … ]

It feels like heresy to say so, but there is something not quite Christian about Chartres Cathedral. Or perhaps one should say that it is somehow super-Christian, a place that connects the central spiritual tradition of the western world to a more ancient, strange and mysterious narrative. People have always seemed to sense this; it is not only in modern times that Chartres has become a nexus of theories about mystical symbolism, hidden codes and vanished wisdom. You will understand why this is so when you go there. There are few buildings in the world that exude such a sense of meaning, intention, signification — that tell you so clearly and so forcefully that these stones were put in place according to a philosophy of awesome proportions, appropriate to the lithic immensity of the church itself. This is partly a happy accident: a pristine document, miraculously preserved from a distant world, bearing a message that is barely diluted by other times and tastes and fashions. But the power of Chartres does not stem simply from its fortunate state of preservation, for even in its own time Chartres made a statement of unprecedented clarity and force.

73868324

No wonder people have argued for hundreds of years about what Chartres Cathedral ‘means’ (and still show no sign of reaching an agreement). From the moment you see the spires rise up on the horizon across the plains of Beauce, you can’t avoid the question. It is all too easy to get carried away — to imagine, say, that there are supernormal forces whirling around those pale towers or slumbering in the ancient well, or that there is some occult cipher that will unveil the secrets locked into the shapes of the stones. The cathedral and its history have been repeatedly romanticized, as though there was ever a time when workmen did not grumble while they toiled and when priests were no less falliby human than they are today. The incomparable windows and the astonishing labyrinth tempt us towards interpretations both fanciful and naïve, and the temptation has frequently proved too great. We have to come to Chartres prepared to admit that there are many things we do not and may never know, and that such answers as we have are not always simple or secure.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

August 28, 2009

Hierarchy of Divisibility

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:50 am

The following are two of the (separate) entries from Rudolf Arnheim’s Parables of Sun Light (1989). The book is a compendium of selections from his daily diary or notebooks:

There exists an erroneous notion to the effect that only particular objects are sharply circumscribed, whereas abstractions are of necessity vague and imprecise. On the contrary, any abstraction, no matter at what level, needs precision in order to be usable. A tree seen out of focus by a myope is of little help; only when seen sharply can a tree at a distance serve as an abstraction for trees seen nearby. The distance makes details drop out but replaces them with the correspondingly greater prominence of the larger structure. On the other hand, we put an undeserved trust into what we call the individual case, which actually is nothing but the level of abstraction beyond which we cannot individualize, except with special help. Look through a magnifying glass, and you will see a much more specific object, compared with which the thing you saw with your naked eye is an abstraction, a generalization capable of covering lots of possible, more specific individuals.

Physicists speak of the “conditional elementary” to indicate the level at which, for the purpose of a given discourse, they are willing to treat a phenomenon as not further divisible. In the arts also, the level of abstraction in an artist’s style determines whether a figure is presented as an elementary unit or a complex of interacting forces. In a medieval mystery play or even in a Boccaccio story, each character stands for a single attitude. Compare this with what happens to the miser or lover or murderer in the psychological novel of the nineteenth century. Or think of the hierarchy of divisibility in a play, where subsidiary figures behave like elementary particles whereas the principal characters unfold a whole range of impulses.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

August 27, 2009

Morpho Logical

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:20 am

The following is from the very end of the book, Shapes which is the first of the trilogy, Nature’s Patterns: a tapestry in three parts by Philip Ball (2009). Though it was in no way Balls’ intention, I find it interesting to speculate (loosely) about how or whether what he is saying might be stretched to apply to the nature of cognitive processes, language (development and use) and perception — and therefore the nature and possible (probable) limits to what we are able to imagine and therefore create.

Or you can just ignore my hand waving and take Ball’s writings as intended. Either (or both) way(s), it’s interesting:

The existence of Hox genes goes to the heart of the question that both Ernst Haeckel and D’Arcy Thompson confronted in their different ways. We have seen that Haeckel had a rather Hegelian view of evolution in which living form obeys imperatives shaped by ill-defined forces, one of which is a kind of Platonic tendency towards symmetry. Thompson felt that the apparently blank sheet offered by Darwinists is in fact constrained considerably by the mechanical exigencies of physical law, making certain structures more or less inevitable. In both cases, the suggestion is of a degree of determinacy in the evolution of living form. If this form is controlled by a rather small number of genes, does this mean that there is only a finite number of possible outcomes dictated by their various permutations applied to a spherical ball of cells? In other words, were Thompson and Haeckel right after all to impose a finite universe of pattern and form?

Possibly so — but the number of permutations is astronomical. Certainly, the ways in which know Hox genes are regulated and switched are far more numerous than evolution could possibly have explored.* Our world can only have hosted a small fraction of this galaxy of Platonic organisms. Does this mean that, if we were to run evolution over again, the results might be quite different?

That is one of biologists’ favorite questions (which is a way of saying that they argue over it furiously). The instinct of the whole of biology runs counter to that which has characterized the physical sciences, in that it opposes any notion of determinacy. For neo-Darwinists, randomness is the order of the day, pruned by the struggle to survive. Anything else smells to some biologists of creationism by stealth — which is to say, that loathed pseudoscience ‘intelligent design’. That is a shame, for the question is a real one, and there is much fun as well as serious science to be found in exploring the answer.

For one thing, it is well known now that selective pressure can channel evolution towards a particular morphological ‘solution’ along independent routes: this is the phenomenon known as convergent evolution. The shapes of fish bodies, of insect appendages, of carnivorous mammal teeth, of bird wing structures, of plant bodies, all show similarities that may come not from shared descent but from unconnected ‘discoveries’ of what we might call a good engineering design during the independent evolution of the species concerned. Traditionally, these coincidences have not been deemed to be saying anything about the breadth of nature’s palette, for convergent evolution seems to suggest merely that in certain fixed circumstances there is a ‘best’, or at least a preferable, way to survive: that commonalities of form may be imposed from without, not from the basic biology of morphogenesis.

But the discovery of patterning genes such as Pax-6 and Distal-less has sparked a heated discussion about the significance of convergent evolution. Does the similar joined character of insect and human limbs, say, indicate that these are the ‘best’ solutions and that nature has sought them out as such, or does it mean that they are simply the solutions that the available set of patterning genes permit? This is not at all easy to answer, not least because we really have no idea what the intrinsic limitations of the set of patterning genes, coupled to the rest of the genome in an incredibly complex network of interactions that plays itself out over time, actually are. These are not, after all, genes ‘for’ making legs, or eyes, or whatever — they are routers with multiple functions. Thus the evolutionary biologist Simon Conway Morris points out that it seems quite permissible, at least, to regard these genes as mere hitchhikers carried along the paths of convergent evolution. The ancestral precursor of the Distal-less gene, for example, may have been linked to the development of sensory organs; and so its involvement in limb growth may not say anything about the particular options available to the Distal-less patterning pathway when embedding the gene network, but may simply be a consequence of the fact that sensory organs were often placed on protrusions from the body — so that Distal-less was a convenient switch for controlling the formation of appendages.


* When the Hox genes were first identified, evolutionary biologists assumed that the increasing complexity of body patterns throughout evolutionary history was the result of their acquiring more of these ‘switches’ by simply making copies in their genomes. But in fact even very ‘primitive’ organisms have been shown to have impressive arrays of the Hox genes, suggesting that complexity of form arose not from having more patterning switches but from finding new ways of controlling and configuring them. By working out what these genes were in ancestral organisms, now long since extinct, it is possible to make good guesses about what these organisms may have looked like — whether, for example, the last common ancestor of humans and flies had eyes or a central nervous system.

Philip Ball also wrote the very good book, Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color that was quoted from in a previous post.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

August 26, 2009

Primal Scene

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:34 am

All of this is from the essay, Bald Heads (1985) in the book, Paper Trails: selected prose, 1965-2003 by Richard Howard (2004). He’s talking about the book of photographs, Heads, by Alex Kayser (1985):

Nearly two hundred headshots of entirely bald subjects, almost all of them men, posed full face, head on, close up, in the manner of police line-ups, without stipulation as to expression or emotion (no one has said Cheese), the absolute condition of flesh against a featureless outer darkness: the series of photographs Alex Kayser has taken is a meditation upon the responsibility of forms. The form in question here, or rather the form responding, is that impulse of human identity we call the face, the visage, the countenance. In their etymologies, all three words suggest what the photographer’s undertaking is to reveal, the made, the seen, the contained. Like so much else about ourselves — like our language, our food, our games — what we had thought was our nature is here revealed to be culture. Here the revelation is principally the effect of series art, which persuades us that each item in a set cannot admit the finality of any one member of that set. It is an art of erasure, in which each object or undertaking is superseded by a different version of itself. It has not arrived at or even acknowledged terminality.

Kayser_head_Mth

[ … ]

Consider, as Paul Valéry used to say about a conch, a pebble, a wave-whitened bone, whether, in their absence, it would be possible to image forth — to invent — such faces, particularly in their juxtaposition, their endless combinatoire. Speaking as a creator, an artist, a sculptor, say, we might ask: Who could bring forth such things? And yet, speaking as a consumer, say a lover: Who could imagine them as other than they are? Is this not the spectacular beauty to which we are brought down or raised up? Unable to conceive of such things, we yet find them — once regarded — as inconceivable otherwise.

Kayser_headWWvt

[ … ]

… the final question to which Alex Kayser’s series of photographs reduces or enlarges us is the matter of identity. (Is it a matter? Is it not, rather, the intersection, the collision, the subsidence of matters?) What is it that lets us, that makes us know a face? What can it be in the human countenance that enables the recognition of one out of a crowd of strangers? There are one or two celebrated visages among those in this book, and like as they are to the rest, we call out their names when we turn to their pages, as on the stairs of an opera house in some foreign city we call out the name when we recognize, among so many likenesses, one that is unlike, that is separate, singular — owned. But among these photographs, curiously enough, are so many samenesses, such congruence of form, that we finally wonder, as if by effect of the endless superimposition of transparencies, if the individuality of selfhood is not the greatest myth of all. Kayser’s wonderful photographs make us wonder what we know about our looks and our looking. Are we known to each other (are we human) because we approach and fall away from the Beautiful? Are we beautiful because we are human? Or insofar as we are not? Surely the temptation of the total mask has not so much to do with secrecy (what is more accessible than even the most delicate of these lineaments?) as with an archetype of total sexuality, that magical image of the human enclosing and incarnating a self-nourishing desire. Not merely ourselves all over again and not merely the other, but perhaps what Frost meant when he said that what life wants

Is not its own love back in copy speech
But counter-love, original response.

Original response! The oxymoron thus reveals what the “facial mask,” the face as fetish object, withholds and bestows by “giving itself away” in every sense. Only the camera, as I have suggested, can tell us such things; not our eyes, not the reality of the police line-up, the brothel selection. consider the very word that governs these images, the word bald. When we refer to our National Bird, the bald eagle, we summon up that original sense of brightness, of shining, of “having a white head” that is also at the source of the word black. They both proceed from the Indo-European root bhel, what is burnt, bleak, and blinds us. That black and the bald, the white and the charred both have their roots in fire, the beginning of all things, as Heraclitus says. No accident then that we must develop a negative in order to have an image, that the blindness and the blaze, the blemish and the blank, all are reworkings of the one primal sound and scene, a blinding flash, a visionary impulse of delight.

Kayser_headSc

Description of Kayser’s book, and the source of the photos used above, can be found here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

August 25, 2009

Biting the Hand that Eats You

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:56 am

cartoon_crab

 

— from The New Yorker

cartoon_goldfish

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

August 24, 2009

To See Both Ways

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:19 am

Perhaps the making mind that contemplates two simultaneous truths is excused from its customary tasks, and need not abstract from what it views.

… my obligation was to see clearly and represent truthfully the configurations of that experience, and to try never to forget the equal necessity to see both ways at the same time, to see the extension of reality to its coincidence with the unseen and contingent …

All of this is from the essay, “The Silence”: Life Through the Lens of Structure by John Engels in the book Introspections: American Poets on One of Their Own Poems edited by Robert Pack and Jay Parini:

… At the time I saw a poem as no more than an artifact, an illusion of reality, a thing derived from the love of things that resembled other things, and were capable of being organized so as to extend themselves somehow to the community. So that in writing this poem I was demonstrating myself to the world. I was playing with words, making analogies, when the great truth, the only truth, was that a child, my child, was dead. How could a poem pretend to the occasion?

… But sometimes friends can save you, as did Jack Beal and Sondra Freckelton, who pointed out to me what in paintings is called the “sacred center,” that point in the painting, in the direct center, where what is most important is made manifest by its placement. It is almost a matter of geometry, a way of containing the uncontainable, of confining its energy almost, but not quite, to the point of the intolerable.

Jack speaks of Caravaggios’s painting of the death of the Virgin, which was criticized by its patrons as presenting the Virgin as resembling a drowned whore . . . she lies on the bed, unassumed, her arm dangling over the edge, “reduced,” they felt, to the “merely” human.

Perhaps. Perhaps I approached my subject in the same spirit as the painter — to reimagine the form and energy of event, to directly access the preverbal sensibility. Perhaps “The Silence” is not history, but a bypassing of circumstance to the dark center of its origin, an assertion of individuality in community, an act of faith against all the evidence of our experience that can be understood by, and understand, others. Perhaps “The Silence” is life focused at its dark center through the lens of structure — not my child’s death, though certainly that; not my [other] son’s attempt to call him back, though that too; and not my assumption of guilt, though perhaps that above all.

The obligation was necessarily sacramental — some operative principle was inherent in the death of my infant son, and my aim, though I did not realize it, was to clarify that presence, not define or analyze it. Perhaps the making mind that contemplates two simultaneous truths is excused from its customary tasks, and need not abstract from what it views.

In fact in writing “The Silence,” my obligation was to see clearly and represent truthfully the configurations of that experience, and to try never to forget the equal necessity to see both ways at the same time, to see the extension of reality to its coincidence with the unseen and contingent, at which point, together with the emergent life of the reader a new reality would burst into existence. “I want to write a poem / , “says Williams,”that you would understand. / For what good is it to me / if you can’t understand it?”

… This life-making struggle between the personal and the general plenitudes manifests itself throughout the whole fabric of “The Silence,” the whole fabric of any poem — line against sentence, strophe against syntactical continuity, rhyme against expectation, the obliquities of figurative language against “plain seeing” and “straight thought.” And, most of all, the simultaneous exclusiveness of the poem and its passionate and incontrovertible longings to inform, monumentalize, fix for all time, affirm, become its pure potency.


Though I am interested in Engels ideas apart from the specific poem he is discussing, you may well be curious about that poem. Here, briefly, is the story behing the poem, and then the poem itself:

“The Silence” was written some fifteen years after the death of our infant son, whom the night before he died I had heard crying in his bed, and who in the morning, while I was on the phone, was discovered by his mother, who came to me and said, “The baby is dead.” I dropped the phone, and she said, “The baby is dead.” My seven-year-old daughter, whose room was directly above the telephone, and open to the downstairs through a heat register, heard this, and the other children, six and four years old, hearing the strangeness of our voices, came running in, wanting to know what was wrong.

And being American, I resorted to euphemism. “Philip’s gone,” I blurted out, whereupon the four-year-old, my son John, ran to the front porch and shouted into the woods (where to his mind little children became lost), “Philip, come back!

 

The Silence

The one child having in manner of speaking fled,
his brother ran out to the porch to call him back,
Philip! he cried out, Philip! I caught him up,
thinking if ever the dead were to be recalled

it would be in a similar voice flung confident
into that raving light. Since then
each fall when the woods have darkened with color
the horror has been absurdly to wonder

if I in my sternest father’s voice
had commanded into the bloodied gullet of the day
Come back! Come back! he might have heard.
But up on the hill

the pines had strained to a power of wind.
Come back! I might have cried, but I did not,
and silence stormed. Meanwhile
he is speechless, dark, of no intent.

 

As there should be, there is a great deal of emotion in the essay. I have not quoted those parts so as to focus on the ideas.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.